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Vol.  10  No. 1 January 2008  Page 5
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The Conversion and Life of an Indian Maiden

By Raymond ElliottRaymond Elliott

    Her name was Birdie Miller Sixkiller. She was born on November 26, 1903, and died on October 16, 1988, at the age of 85. She lived on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. She became an educator and taught Primary grades on the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee for 30 years. During her later years, she also taught in the Cherokee Indian School in the state of Oklahoma. She was politically active for the progress of the Native Americans. Because of her contribution made for the betterment of her people, an artist painted a portrait of her that can be seen with other Native Americans on the artist’s website.

    Brother Bob Rigdon, now of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and an associate minister with the church there, related to me some important information regarding this gracious lady. Bob was a well-known Gospel preacher and educator in Western North Carolina for nearly a half century. While he preached for the church and taught at Western Carolina University in Sylva, North Carolina, he taught and preached often for the congregation in Cherokee. John Harlan was baptized during a Gospel meeting when Chester Hunnicutt and Bob were working together at that time. John told Bob about his mother, Birdie Miller Sixkiller. She was then teaching in Oklahoma and would often visit with her son. It was during those visits that Bob became acquainted with sister Sixkiller and became a great admirer of this Christian lady. This is what Bob has written concerning our sister in the Lord: “She gave me a New Testament written in the Cherokee language. She informed me that it was the only Bible they had when she was growing up on the Reservation. (Note: This New Testament was published in 1820 and again in 1827.) The Old Testament was not translated into their language at that time. She had obeyed Jesus at a very young age. She mentioned to me that all the churches on the Reservation when she was a teenager baptized for remission of sins and partook of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. In addition, they did not use instruments of music in worship. Then the denominations began to move in and all that changed. After she retired from teaching, she moved back to Cherokee, NC. She taught children’s classes at the church. She visited numerous people, inviting them to church and set up home Bible studies until her death in the l980s. She was in her late 80’s when she passed away. Birdie was severely crippled and had to wear a special shoe with a six inch sole and later needed a cane to walk.”

    This story of a Native American lady who became a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ and served Him faithfully for so many years thrilled my soul when I first learned of it. Perhaps it was for a personal reason. My maternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Sizemore, was a quarter blood Cherokee. My mother related how a Native American woman once asked my grandmother to live with her. I am happy to say that my grandmother also became a Christian, having been influenced by a godly lady friend. I have always had a tender and compassionate feeling in my heart for the Native Americans who have suffered much over the years. However, there are more important reasons why I am writing about the conversion and life of sister Sixkiller. They are:

    1.  She learned of Jesus through a study of the New Testament in her own language. Her faith in her Lord was not founded on the teachings propagated in the creeds of men; rather, her faith came through the Word of God (John 20: 30-31: Romans 10:17).

    2.  She understood at a young age that in order to be saved by the grace of God she had to believe in Jesus Christ, repent of her sins and be immersed into Christ for the remission of her sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:36-38). She did not have the professional guidance of someone to help her misunderstand the simplicity of the way of salvation as taught in the New Testament.

    3.  Please observe that the congregation where she worshiped partook of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. Now how did they know to do that unless it is to be understood these Christians studied such passages as Matthew 26:26-29; Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29; 16:1-2 and Acts 20:7 and came to the conclusion that the church in the first century met on the first day of the week to break bread. There is no biblical record to indicate that our brethren in the infant church ever partook of the Lord’s Supper on Saturday and/or infrequently like once a month or just on special occasions.

    4.  It is important to observe that the congregation on the Cherokee Indian Reservation sang during their worship assemblies without the addition of instruments. In their study of the New Testament, which was written in their language, these Native Americans understood singing was the only kind of music authorized in the Holy Scriptures (1 Corinthians 14:15, 23; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). This was true also of the first century Christians as well as Christendom for hundreds of years.

    5.  It was only when denominational doctrines and practices invaded the religious community that innovations were introduced into the worship of the church. It is not the Word of God that divides Christians; rather, it is the dogmas, creeds and traditions of men that separate believers (Matthew 15:7-9).

    How wonderful it would be if our liberal minded brethren would consider the significance of this story of a young Indian girl who obeyed the commands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and worshiped faithfully with the local congregation in her community. How sad that many of our leading brethren and congregations are being greatly influenced by the doctrines of men as they come to the conclusion that baptism is not necessary for salvation; that the Lord’s Supper can be taken on any day of the week and/or on such occasions as weddings, etc; and that the use of instruments in the worship can be justified by the silence of the Holy Scriptures. Moses E. Lard, a pioneer preacher and author wrote these words concerning the doctrines and practices of men: “To warrant the holding of a doctrine or practice it must be shown that it has the affirmative or positive sanction of this standard, [The New Testament, RE] and not merely that it is not condemned by it. Either it must be actually asserted or necessarily implied, or it must be positively backed by some divinely approved precedent, otherwise it is not even an item in Christianity, and is therefore, when it is attempted to be made part of it, criminal and wrong.”

Works Cited

1. Type the name of Birdie Miller Sixkiller into Google (or your search machine). Click on the link of Gallery and Museum Shows and you will see a portrait of sister Sixkiller.

2. Lord’s Quarterly, 1864, Volume 1, page 330.

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